Painful periods, also called dysmenorrhea, affect up to 80% of women. The pain often comes and goes in waves and many women describe it as an intense squeezing and/or burning feeling. Some women also feel the pain in the lower back and thighs.
The pain usually starts the first day of bleeding and typically lasts up to three days. For many women the pain is bad enough to have a significant impact on their lives; up to 50% of women report missing at least one day or school or work because of painful periods.
Painful periods are the result of hormones, called prostaglandins, released from the lining of the uterus during menstruation. Dysmenorrhea can also be a sign of a medical condition endometriosis (a condition where the lining of the uterus grows in the belly) or adenomyosis (the lining of the uterus works it’s way into the muscle of the uterus). These conditions are more likely to be present when the pain lasts more than five days.
While traditional Western Medicine, such as birth control pills and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, can be helpful many women want to avoid pharmaceuticals and hormones in particular. Here are six non-pharmaceutical options for painful periods:
Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.